After weeks of controversy and debate, the Kodiak Island Borough Planning and Zoning Commission turned down a request from Pacific Seafoods to reduce the amount of required parking spaces its processing plant is required to maintain off Shelikof Street.
The request came after the borough prosecuted a complaint that alleged the Pacific Seafoods plant did not have the 22 parking places required by borough code for a building of the plant’s size. The request from Pacific Seafoods would have reduced its required number of parking spaces to 10.
Plant manager John Whiddon said without the reduction, the required turnaround area around Pacific Seafoods’ parking spaces would fill the plant’s parking lot, leaving no room for trucks to load and unload from the plant.
Business owners who work next to Pacific Seafoods countered that granting the request meant penalizing them, since Pacific Seafoods visitors and employees would then fill up street parking in front of their businesses.
“They should have plenty of parking; most all the other canneries have their own parking, they should have theirs, too,” said Bill Alwert, one of the owners of Pickled Willy’s, the pickled seafood store located across the street from Pacific Seafoods.
Whiddon countered that argument, pointing out that most of the other processing plants on Shelikof Street operate under an exception to the borough parking rules that was implemented to support business.
Pacific Seafoods was established after the exception was granted, leaving it the only processing plant facing this issue.
Each side presented large amounts of public testimony in support of its position, but a small amount of controversy was generated when many of the pro-Pacific Seafoods documents were discounted by a planning and zoning bylaw that sets a deadline 15 days before the meeting to receive public comments in text. A stack of letters presented at the meeting, including supporting documents from the Kodiak Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, were dated Sept. 5 or later.
“The standards for getting a variance are high, and there’s a reason: it’s basically getting permission to break the law,” said commissioner Alan Schmitt, who laid out the reason the planning commission turned down Pacific Seafoods’ request in a unanimous vote.
While commissioners agreed that the parking situation on Shelikof Street is dire, they said granting an exception to Pacific Seafoods would help that business at the expense of its neighbors.
“I don’t want to see other businesses impacted because of a grandfather clause that’s been passed down from before my time,” said commissioner Sonny Vinberg.
After the meeting, Whiddon said Pacific Seafoods will continue to work toward a solution to the parking issue. He declined to give specifics on the record.
In other business, the commission replatted two pieces of land that will underlie the new long-term care facility to be built next to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center. The replat completes a land swap between the city of Kodiak and the Kodiak Island Borough for the site.
The commission also:
• approved the rezoning of a lot in Port Lions for that city’s water treatment plant;
• recommended the borough assembly sell 1311 Larch Street., which has been foreclosed upon for unpaid taxes.